Wow, most of this was written in the first couple of days after I got back from California, but it has just taken this long to post. In lieu of experiencing Converge South, here I post the balance of my antics from Portable Media Expo.
Saturday I didn’t get up brutally early but I was still at the convention center in time to see Andrew Baron’s keynote. It was OK but I think Andrew knows he’s not the most enervating speaker. While we were in the back of the room George Starcher gave me a thumbdrive with some video from my talk the previous day and I transferred it to my harddrive. I ran into CC Chapman after the keynote and he was going up to be on a panel on music licensing. At this stage of the game, I can’t claim that I think there is much I haven’t already heard on the topic but I wanted to support CC. He’s always at every talk I give, so it only seemed fair to go to his. I mostly sat and answered email and took photos of the panel and the jokers around me (including fellow ITC show host Denise Howell, who I had just met earlier that morning.) Towards the end, though, there was a statement made by Ali Partovi of GarageBand.com that brought me out of the woodwork. He said “Once a song is made available for free download, no one will ever purchase it.” This, said I, is a load of bollocks. I pointed out that there is a large and growing number of people who go out of their way to make sure the artists they like get money from them, including buying the CDs and iTunes of things they already have in order to keep them afloat. In a larger sense, even though you already have those songs you are making a downpayment on the next album by making sure the artist has money and energy and encouragement enough to do it one more time. He refused to believe some of us would operate under this regime. In fact, the contrapositive of his thesis is true. I will not buy any CDs I haven’t already downloaded a big chunk of. This is what happens when as an industry you burn customers for $17 over and over again for albums with one or two good songs.
After this panel, I went back to the hotel room and traded my laptop and backpack for my Marantz PMD 670 and the bag of audio equipment. It’s too burdensome to carry all of it at once, but either is fine. I cadged a little lunch from the speaker room, set up the Marantz to my liking and hit the show floor. I didn’t really have an agenda but I just walked around and talked to people that interested me. It was tilted towards people I already knew pretty well but I also interviewed Paul Kafasis from Rogue Amoeba who I don’t know. These will make up the bulk of the next few shows [actually, I wrote this so long ago the shows have already been done]. It only seemed reasonable to actually talk to some folks with this audio equipment I shlepped all the way out there and incurred two special airport searches for. I had said that last year I never used it, but I forgot my interviews with JD Lasica and Simon Steadman so I did do a little with it then. I more or less interviewed folks until the show closed. As I said in the most recent podcast, I wasn’t explicitly eschewing women, that’s just how the dice fell during that period that I had the Marantz deployed. I’d have liked to talk to Susan about her family oral history podcast project but she wasn’t around Saturday. It wasn’t until I was organizing later the complete lack of female voices hit me.
After that I went over to the room to prep for the BBQ. I’ll skip the details of that since I have mostly already covered that. The BBQ politely self-destructed right around the time it should have, so I and Scott Fletcher walked around and picked up trash. The only twinge of disappointment I had the whole time was right at the end, when we were picking up trash. The last table of folks had a giant pile of glasses and crap piled up. I asked them to all carry a handful of trash on their way out. One of the crowd said “Won’t the hotel people do all that?” Sigh. I pointed out that their giant pile of glass from the hotel bar violates the rules of meeting at the pool so the way you repay that karma is by cleaning up after yourself. Do people really need to be told these things? I went out of my way to talk to the Ray, the head of security to make sure we were cool. He seemed to appreciate the way we returned the pool back to its original state, so the karma bill was marked paid.
I had heard that there was some sort of Todd Cochrane venture holding a party, and that the body painters were back there. Although I did not jump naked in the pool, I was kind of in the market for some limited craziness. I ran back to the room and got an AmigoFish sticker and met Darusha up there. My plan was to see if I could get the fish painted on my ass. After all my jokes about iPod Observer having “clickwheels tattooed on their asses” it just seemed right. Kevin Mason, the painter, thought that was cool so I dropped trou and he went to it. This might sound crazy, but because of my near-impeccable timing there was almost no one around when I did this. There is a little documentary evidence of this but not many folks watched my bare butt getting painted. The hilarity happened during the painting though, when several minutes in to it Kevin said to me “You know, I love AmigoFish.” Turns out he’s been a member for a month or more and has used it to find new things. When I started this outing, I had no idea he actually knew what the service was. So, as he was painting my ass I was asking him about how he found the user experience. That’s what you call hands on customer service, except without the hands.
After this I went down to the bar and hung some more, having a drink with Lance and Pam Heath. They snapped a photo of the increasingly smudged fish from a quick exposure of it. I buckled back up, and there was the security guy watching the whole thing. The only thing I could say was “Ray, I wish you hadn’t seen that.” He shrugged and walked away – I wasn’t sure how to interpret that but it seemed fairly benign. I had a drink with Kevin and Marci, the body painter and paintee respectively. After this, the bar really thinned out to just the hardcore which was me, Ben “Bendrix” Williams, Ken Ray and his friend Rachel [who I didn't recognize at the time, but is from 88Slide.] We shut down the bar and then went out in front of the hotel for Ken and Rachel to smoke.
While we were out there, this lady named Joanie came up to Ben and me asking why the Ontario Marriot was full of cool young people on a Saturday night. She said she was a vendor at the LA County Fair and is frequently at that hotel and had never seen it like that. Somewhere in there she mentioned having been a punk as a teen, so I told her I could draw the line from that to podcasting in 90 seconds, explaining that the urge that led people to publish zines or make homemade band shirts or just learning three chords and forming a band plus cheap computers and ubiquitous electronics leads to the world in which we can all be creative on whatever excites us. She seemed to get it. She also seemed embarassed by the fact that she sold these collapsible vases that set when cold and can be scrunched up small when hot. I thought it was highly cool, not necessarily as vases per se but as raw material for some sort of crazy Maker project. I think she never quite got that Ben and I were unironic in thinking those sounded cool. Because she was a couple years older than me, she saw all these punk bands I was too young and too Kansan to have seen, so I was enjoying all the 70′s LA punk stuff.
Shortly after this, I had a chat with Mikey from Nebraska (everyone else seemed to know what show he does, but I never caught it.) [In fact, I found him - Public Nuisance Radio.] I was born not so far from where he lives, and we talked Nebraska and Henry Rollins and more punk and had a good ol’ time. Around here, though, I hit the wall and had to decide whether to walk back to my room or be dragged back there. I chose the former.
Sunday I got up and got ready to interview Andrew Baron in the hotel lobby. I showered, trudged out with my Marantz and waited. When he wasn’t there at 9 AM, I called his cell. They were out late and still in bed, so that didn’t happen. Hey, I was out till 3:30 AM the same as them but I was up and at em at 8 AM. I don’t hold anyone else to my standard of manly vitality though, it’s just not fair to them. No hard feelings. I went back to the room and packed up all the gear. Even though there were hours and hours until the flight and we are about 3 minutes from the airport, just the act of packing got me a little agitated. At one point, I had my cellphone and then just didn’t. I knew the thing couldn’t have disappeared. When I calmed down and looked thoroughly, I found it in the center of a pile of dirty clothes. Nice.
After packing and rolling out of the hotel room for the last time, I finally met Andy Walker who was a few rooms down from me. We chatted for like 2 minutes in the hall until the maid cart made it wiser to bail on the hallway. I had seem him walking around with a camera crew, but this last minute was the only chance I had at a conversation. He seemed like a great guy, I hope to talk to him a little more in the future.
Afterwards, I checked out of the hotel and waited for the shuttle. I figure I’d hang at the airport and maybe nap at the gate or if Ontario had free wifi I’d go online there. I said my goodbyes to various people, saw Wendy and John from GabberJaw on their way out, rode the shuttle with Doug Kaye and Scoble amongst others. At the security line, they were running the belt back and forth on my bag so I told them it would probably be easier on us all if they’d just hand search it. Again, I understand what a tacklebox full of wires and adapters looks like on the X-ray machine.
Up at the gate, the flight from Ontario to Atlanta was lousy with podcasters and expo attendees. There were at least a dozen that I knew personally, and some like Jim and Mandy from Baltimore that I had just met or was meeting then. Mandy was at my talk Friday and actually ended up sitting kitty korner from me on the plane. I don’t even remember who all was in the group I was sitting with, but someone went to the fast food place and bought a bunch of sodas to hand out. Thank you, masked man, even if I don’t remember who did it. I talked more with Steve Eley and then went and did a pickup interview with CC Chapman. CC would go on to win the “longest goodbye” award, because I saw him all the way up until 3 minutes before I got on my connection to Myrtle Beach in the ATL airport.
On the flight itself, I goofed around and categorized all my interview audio from the weekend. I found out that two of the interviews, Doug Kaye and Robert Scoble, had this annoying periodic buzz in it. I think it might have been the low battery indicator. I had never ran the battery down that far, but it seemed crazy to me that the battery indicator would be audible in the recording. I tried to do some noise reduction but an airplane isn’t really the best environment for such work. I had a little incident with the woman sitting across the aisle from me that I wrote up but may or may not actually post. It’s a little overwrought, as most tales of sin and redemption are. A lot of people paid the $5 to watch the movies and TV or play games on the LCD in the seat back. Me personally, I read the end of Soul Kitchen and watched vlogs, so I didn’t need to pay for diversion. My whole weekend was devoted to the idea of keeping myself diverted, so it would be freaky to choose to outsource that now.
After the plane landed and I got out into the terminal, I realized that I didn’t have the next boarding pass and sleeve with my luggage claim check. The gate personel told me it would be easier to get a new one printed than go back in the plane, so I just went on. There I saw CC several more times (he was 3 gates down) and grabbed a little dinner at a Nathan’s Hot Dogs stand. We boarded on time for a very full flight, and then we were off. All was fine until we landed, when it came out that half the luggage never got loaded on the plane because it was so full. Kind of a bummer, but at least for me heading home not a make or break deal like it would be for someone on a business trip or on vacation. I filled out my ticket and gave them my info and was leaving the airport when I saw a dude pushing a cart full of luggage with my bag on the very top. Turns out that because of my layover, my bag went ahead on an earlier flight. I had been willing to drive back to the airport later (I only work a few minutes away) but not having to is so much the better. After this and paying for parking, I finally got home at something like 11:45 PM. With that, some welcome home kissing and an exhausted drop into the bed where I slept fitfully at best and created a snoring incident at one point in the middle of the night.
It was a delightful and grueling four days that flew by in the blink of an eye. Even now, as I write the tail end of this a full week after I left, it seems like it hardly happened. I talked to hundreds of people, renewed many acquaintances and made many new ones, bought drinks for people and was bought drinks by people, fed people and was cursed by them, and generally engaged with the community. It was fantastic, and I thank everyone who took the time to talk with me, take some stickers and shake my hand, came to my talk or came to anyone’s talk. Thanks to Tim Bourquin for putting on another great event and thanks to everyone for making it a great party. I wish it was happening again next weekend, and I’m glad it really isn’t for another year.